Mental Health – Could Your Genes be the Issue?

Mental health is a critical factor in overall health.  It impacts everyone and you can’t have radiant health if you constantly feel stress, sadness or anxiety in your heart, mind and spirit.  The world seems to be going crazy… full of stress, anger, fear, depression and struggle…  But remember, there is always hope!  There’s always the possibility to turn adversity into advantage.  From the chaos, we are also seeing evidence of love, grace, kindness and hope!

But did you know your genes also play a role in this situation?

The list below is NOT exhaustive and please know that mental health issues are not simple… That said, there are several nutrients that research has found to consistently be associated with various forms of mental health challenges including anxiety, depression and other.

  • Caffeine and anxiety– Caffeine can be poison or medicine depending on your genotype.  The ADORA2A snp gives us some information about how likely you are to experience anxiety with caffeine.1  Of course, as with most things, caffeine is dose dependent, meaning that you may have this risk variant and have no problem with 1 cup of coffee but notice major issues with 2 cups.  Knowing your genotype for this snp can clarify if you should avoid caffeine or not (or perhaps even add it to your morning routine).
  • Folate and depression– Low dietary folate is also associated with a higher risk of depression.2  Understanding your genotype for MTHFR snp can be a key to reducing this risk with diet and or supplements.3
  • B12 and depression– Depression is also associated with low levels of B12.2  Your FUT2 gene is the one that gives us indications about your risk for low levels of B12.  This understanding can also give you the information you need about supplementation.4
  • Vitamin D and depression– Besides supporting mucous membranes and immunity (as you’ve likely heard with COVID-19), low vitamin D are also associated with an increased risk for depression, especially in older adults.5, 6  The CYP2R1 and GC genes are the snps that tell us about a person’s risk for low vitamin D levels.7  Given all that vitamin D does in the body, this is a key piece of information to have, especially if you’re struggling with depression.
  • Zinc and iron and depression– Those who feel depressed also tend to be low in zinc and iron.8, 9  The SLC30A3 snp refers to risk with low zinc and the HFE, TMPRSS6 and TF snps tell us about iron.  
  • Vitamin D and PMS-related depression– Low vitamin D is also associated with PMS-related depression.10  Again, the CYP2R1 and GC genes are the snps that tell us about a person’s risk for low vitamin D levels.7  

Wow… Are you starting to get the idea?  As depleted as most American’s are in nutrition, it’s no wonder that we struggle with mental health.  

Stepping back and looking at the big picture, here’s what is most important:

  1. All nutrients are important and have MANY roles in the body.  Even a slight deficiency of just one micronutrient can have major consequences over time, let alone if you have several.
  2. It is not prudent, nor is it cost effective, to just take tons of supplements to “cover your bases”.   Step one is always to look at the foundations of health.  Are you getting good sleep? Eating whole fresh organic plants?  Exercising?  Drinking lots of pure water?  THEN and only then…look to supplements to fill in the gaps.  A genetic risk for a given nutrient could be considered a gap.
  3. Remember that nutrigenomics is just ONE area to consider… Mental health is also impacted by stress, lack of exercise, the microbiome and so much more.  I love the genetic testing as it gives some great indicators that we can’t know otherwise.  However, it is just one piece of the puzzle.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, as Dr. Cousens often says, “Genetics load the gun, YOU pull the trigger.” It’s a great reminder that epigenetics is at play, meaning that the choices you make about your environment play a HUGE role about how your genes are manifested.

So what do you do?

First, get your Nutrigenomix test ordered so you know what you’re dealing with.  

In the meantime, did you know that 400g (about a pound) of fruits and vegetables is associated with decreased stress levels?11  This is always a great starting point!

We’d love to help you!  Feel free to call the clinic with questions about consulting with me and/or getting your genetic testing!  269-204-6525


1. Gajewska A, Blumenthal TD, Winter B, et al. Effects of ADORA2A gene variation and caffeine on prepulse inhibition: A multi-level risk model of anxiety. Prog Neuro-Psychopharmacology Biol Psychiatry. 2013. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2012.08.008

2. Khosravi M, Sotoudeh G, Amini M, Raisi F, Mansoori A, Hosseinzadeh M. The relationship between dietary patterns and depression mediated by serum levels of Folate and vitamin B12. BMC Psychiatry. 2020. doi:10.1186/s12888-020-2455-2

3. Vidmar Golja M, Šmid A, Karas Kuželički N, Trontelj J, Geršak K, Mlinarič-Raščan I. Folate Insufficiency Due to MTHFR Deficiency Is Bypassed by 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate. J Clin Med. 2020. doi:10.3390/jcm9092836

4. Hazra A, Kraft P, Selhub J, et al. Common variants of FUT2 are associated with plasma vitamin B12 levels. Nat Genet. 2008. doi:10.1038/ng.210

5. Menon V, Kar S, Suthar N, Nebhinani N. Vitamin D and depression: A critical appraisal of the evidence and future directions. Indian J Psychol Med. 2020. doi:10.4103/IJPSYM.IJPSYM_160_19

6. Brouwer-Brolsma EM, Dhonukshe-Rutten RAM, van Wijngaarden JP, et al. Low vitamin D status is associated with more depressive symptoms in Dutch older adults. Eur J Nutr. 2016. doi:10.1007/s00394-015-0970-6

7. Thacher TD, Fischer PR, Singh RJ, Roizen J, Levine MA. CYP2R1 mutations impair generation of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and cause an atypical form of vitamin D deficiency. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015. doi:10.1210/jc.2015-1746

8. Petrilli MA, Kranz TM, Kleinhaus K, et al. The emerging role for zinc in depression and psychosis. Front Pharmacol. 2017. doi:10.3389/fphar.2017.00414

9. Lee HS, Chao HH, Huang WT, Chen SCC, Yang HY. Psychiatric disorders risk in patients with iron deficiency anemia and association with iron supplementation medications: A nationwide database analysis. BMC Psychiatry. 2020. doi:10.1186/s12888-020-02621-0

10. Abdi F, Ozgoli G, Rahnemaie FS. A systematic review of the role of vitamin D and calcium in premenstrual syndrome. Obstet Gynecol Sci. 2019. doi:10.5468/ogs.2019.62.2.73

11. Głąbska D, Guzek D, Groele B, Gutkowska K. Fruit and vegetable intake and mental health in adults: A systematic review. Nutrients. 2020. doi:10.3390/nu12010115

Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease.  It does not take the place of a qualified health care practitioner and is intended for educational purposes only.

Dr. LeAnn Fritz, PhD

Dr. LeAnn is a practitioner, coach, speaker, consultant, and the founder of New Hope Health. She is also the author of The Quantum Weight Loss Blueprint, and Get Healthy Now. She is laser-focused on practical, evidence-based practices to empower her clients to get real results that last. She sets the bar when it comes to radiant health that will change every area of your life forevermore.

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